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Lone Survivor

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Lone Survivor. Marcus Luttrell. 390 pp. Little, Brown, 2007.

By Rachel Ishak.

Social Work, Fall ‘17.


If you desire to read a compelling book that accurately portrays the heroism soldiers display in the face of very real danger and demonstrates why Americans must express their gratitude to these brave men and women, read Lone Survivor.

This autobiography recounts Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s experience executing Operation Red Wings. In 2005, four Navy SEALs were deployed to Afghanistan to face the rough terrain of the Hindu Kush to conduct reconnaissance. The goal of the operation was to gain intelligence and eliminate a militia leader in the efforts of stabilizing the region, but the mission quickly went awry when Luttrell’s team encountered a group of goat herders. After a fierce firefight and many attempts to evade the enemy, three of the four SEALs were killed. Luttrell relates his experiences becoming a Navy SEAL, executing this operation, and living with the aftermath of this traumatic event.

Luttrell does an excellent job of characterizing Navy SEAL culture to the average civilian. Military culture is so unique and specific that one who is unaffiliated can easily be lost in the jargon and rituals. Luttrell helpfully describes in detail the values, practices, and lifestyle of Navy SEALs for those who are not privy to military culture. Not only does he expertly illustrate military life but also war. Though he does not identify it as such, Luttrell depicts the fog of war – the confusion precipitated by extreme chaos. The reader is absorbed into the account and is subjected to the same stress and confusion as Luttrell himself. Luttrell maintains humility when describing his plights in such a way that does not negate the severity of the situation. He explicitly conveys that he is not sharing his story for the fame, but as a way to reveal to the public the trials soldiers are forced to endure and to recognize the sacrifice of his brothers in arms. He at times utilizes profanity, which I believe denotes the direness of the situation.

Lone Survivor reshaped my beliefs regarding war and the military. I was exposed to the reality of death in war and of morally questionable choices that at times must be made in order to preserve life and the mission. I was able to observe firsthand the effect war has on the soldier mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. Luttrell’s account heightened my sensitivity and awareness to the experiences of service men and women, and fostered within me a greater spirit of appreciation. The lessons I learned from this book are invaluable as I desire to pursue a life dedicated to serving and supporting the men and women who faithfully serve our country. Everyone should read Lone Survivor to gain an understanding of the trials that 1.4 million Americans experience regularly and to obtain the proper spirit of gratitude that we must have regarding our service men and women.

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